ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. (1984) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. (1984) DIRECTED BY SERGIO LEONE. MUSIC BY ENNIO MORRICONE. BASED ON THE 1952 BOOK, ‘THE HOODS,’ BY HARRY GREY.
STARRING ROBERT DE NIRO, JAMES WOODS, ELIZABETH MCGOVERN, TUESDAY WELD, DARLENE FLEUGEL, JOE PESCI, BURT YOUNG AND DANNY AIELLO.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Okay. I’ll keep this short enough as so much has already been said about this iconic gangster film set in America in the ‘Twenties and ‘Thirties. It’s one of Sergio Leone’s masterpieces- he’s the King of the Spaghetti Westerns, as if you didn’t know- and it’s visually stunning, it’s got a fantastic score by Ennio Morricone and a top-notch cast and it’s very, very long. It clocks in at three hours and forty minutes.

There is a shorter version, I believe, but it would simply feel butchered to your average devoted Sergio Leone fan, and the director himself doesn’t care for it. The best way to watch it is in its entirety, with a nice bottle of vino to wet your whistle, on a night you’re free for approximately four hours. Then just relax, sit back and enjoy a masterclass in acting and directing of the kind you don’t often see nowadays…

Robert de Niro plays Noodles and James Woods portrays Max, two little Jewish wannabe-thugs living on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the second decade of the twentieth century. The streets are old, some practically derelict and teeming with Jews selling their wares and developing businesses such as barbering, shoe-and-boot-mending, and selling religious items, books and leather-work, to name just a very small few.
 
With three pals, Noodles and Max start off committing crimes for a local gang boss by the name of Bugsy, but by the time they’ve grown facial hair, they’ve formed their own little tight-knit gang of street hoodlums and petty criminals. Max and Noodles are firm friends for life, the kind only something monumental can put asunder.

Noodles loses his virginity early to a local girl called Peggy, a rough-and-ready type who will accommodate all comers for a plate of free dessert. His real interest lies with Deborah, though, the sister of one of his friends, Fat Moe, who runs Moe’s Bar. Yeah, like in THE SIMPSONS, lol.

Deborah is a beautiful but uppity young lady with upwardly mobile notions of being a dancer and actress in Hollywood, whom Noodles brutally rapes when they are both adults, because he can’t stand the fact that she ultimately chooses Hollywood over marriage to him. How very dare she…?

The first ninety minutes portray the five lads, Noodles, Max, Cockeye, Patsy and Little Dominic, building up their burgeoning crime empire on the Lower East Side. Noodles goes to prison for several years, however, for killing the gang boss Bugsy after Bugsy shoots their youngest member, Dominic, who then dies in Noodles’ arms. ‘I slipped, Noodles…!’

When Noodles comes out of prison, he and his gang are all adult men. It’s 1930, and his old gang have all become Prohibition millionaires from supplying local bars like Fat Moe’s with illegal liquor. This film has the distinction of being considered one of the best Prohibition movies ever made, if not the very best, in case I forgot to say that.

I love all the Prohibition stuff, all the jazz music, the Speak-easies and the Irish-American cops raiding some bars to see if anyone’s drinking anything stronger than lemonade, and turning a blind eye to others they probably have shares in. It was a very colourful and exciting time, certainly for us today looking back on it and watching films about it.

A diamond heist brings the sexually masochistic sometimes-hooker Carol into all their lives. Then the end of Prohibition spells the death of the gang’s bootlegging success; what should they do next…? Max comes up with the idea of robbing the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

Noodles and Max’s new moll, Carol, both agree that Max must have lost his mind. A heist like that would never work. It’s certain suicide for all concerned. Can his friends stop him from throwing away his one wild and precious life like it’s yesterday newspaper? Or has Max’s fate already been decided by the gods…? Take nothing at face value, folks…

The story is told in a non-linear fashion that will drive some viewers to distraction. The story hops back and forth between Max and Noodles as tough, fit, sexually vigorous young men to Noodles in the late ‘Sixties, returning to Fat Moe’s and his other haunts from wherever he’s been for years and years in answer to a pair of very strange invitations. One is an invite to visit a certain memorial in a certain cemetery, which might just offer a key to a past mystery. The other is to a party at a politician’s home…

I don’t like the ending, with the garbage truck. I’ve heard there’s an alternative, with a single gunshot being heard offscreen, which I think would have worked better. Still, that’s only a small point. A small point, but mine own, lol.

The fabulous musical score was composed by Ennio Morricone, but the pan-flutings of a Romanian musician called Gheorghe Zamfir, who also did the haunting musical score for the 1975 Australian horror film PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, just elevates it even more into the realms of unforgettable film soundtracks than it already was.

There now, I’ve gone on for much longer than I meant to, and after me saying I was going to keep it short and everything. There’s a lot to say about such a long film, though. And, anyway, I really wanted to do it justice, which I hope I have.

It’s perfect viewing for a quiet Bank Holiday night, and there’s a bit of humour in it as well, for example, in the baby-swapping and in the, erm, the identity parade of, um, cocks. No, for once the real thing, not the feathered kind. Could Number Three please step forward and turn to the left? I think that eye might have winked at me before. I just need to see it again…  

       AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. (1966) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Eli Wallach in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. (1966) DIRECTED BY SERGIO LEONE. MUSIC BY ENNIO MORRICONE. STARRING CLINT EASTWOOD, LEE VAN CLEEF, ELI WALLACH, ALDO GIUFFRÈ AND MARIO BREGA.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I’ve never seen so many men wasted so badly.’

This is the third film in Sergio Leone’s renowned triumvirate of spaghetti Westerns, the ‘DOLLARS’ trilogy. Preceded by A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964) and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965), it’s also the longest and most ambitious of the films and the only one to feature the American Civil War.

Clint Eastwood, who stars in all three films, made his name internationally in the ‘DOLLARS’ trilogy and introduces in them his famous character of ‘The Man With No Name.’ This is the laconic Man-Of-Few-Words who has such superlative skills as a gunfighter that he frequently can shoot at things behind him or to the side of him and get ’em bang-on. Even just by using his peripheral vision he’s a crack shot.

In THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, Clint teams up with Lee Van Cleef (Colonel Douglas Mortimer in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE) as the ruthless Angel Eyes and Eli Wallach in his first and only ‘DOLLARS’ outing as Tuco. Clint is here known as ‘Blondie’ because of the sun-lightened highlights in his lovely thick head of brown hair.

Blondie and Tuco have an hilarious but rather unreliable scam going together at the start of the film. Tuco is the comic relief throughout the movie, but that doesn’t alter the fact that he’s also a desperate desperado of a villain and a thief and he’s ‘WANTED’ in several towns for his various outlawed shenanigans. And I do mean ‘WANTED,’ not just plain wanted, lol.

Here’s what they do, see? Blondie pretends to run Tuco into the Sheriff of the different towns where there’s a price on the foul-mouthed Tuco’s charming lickle head. Blondie collects a nice fat reward, often thousands of dollars.

Tuco is duly sentenced to hang by the denizens of the town. At the point of hanging, a strategically-placed Blondie shoots at the rope around Tuco’s neck and Tuco, already comfortably seated on a horse, lights on outta there a free man, later to share the spoils with Blondie. Then it’s onto the next town to commit the same delightfully ingenious fraud again.

There’s a lot that can go wrong with this scam, or possibly scam-ola. (THE SIMPSONS!) All it takes is for Blondie to get the sudden urge to scratch his ass or swat away a fly that lands on his face or for the sun to blind him at the wrong time, and Tuco is toast.

Not to mention the fact that the various towns in the Wild West were already able to communicate with each other via telegraph, mail coach, horse messenger and plain good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Word would surely have gotten around sooner or later that Blondie and Tuco were engaged in a scam of the scammiest order. But whatever, it’s a film…!

Anyway, Blondie and Tuco don’t trust each other as far as they could throw each other, despite the fact that they’re compelled to work together if they want to make a quick easy buck without resorting to honest, back-breaking labour. Which naturally they do. Honest, back-breaking labour both sucks and blows.

They’re frequently on the outs with each other or trying to kill each other, or threatening to, at any rate. It’s my honest belief that, when it comes to the crunch, they wouldn’t do it. There’s a grudging mutual liking there, despite themselves.

It’s during one of these ‘outs,’ however, that the two bandits learn from a dying man calling himself Bill Carson of the existence of two hundred thousand dollars worth of Confederate gold in a grave in a cemetery somewhere.

Ironically, Tuco only learns the name of the cemetery and Blondie only manages to find out the name on the gravestone. The pair are forced to work together, therefore, in order to pull off the biggest coup of their bandity lives.

Unbeknownst to the pair of them, though, Lee Van Cleef’s unscrupulous mercenary Angel Eyes character is also after this money. In order to find out its whereabouts, he’s already murdered a small family of peasants without any qualms and beaten a young prostitute half to death. Shame on you, Angel Eyes, you family-killer and prostitute-beater, you! As if their lives weren’t tough enough already.

The American Civil War is going on while all this is happening. Do Blondie’s comments about the terrible, pointless waste of life mirror the director’s own opinions? It’s certainly hard not to agree with Blondie when you see the carnage and the utter chaos that characterises this awful conflict.

Blondie and Tuco are trotting along happily on the way to the cemetery anyway, wearing some stolen grey uniforms of the South, when they see a regiment of grey-clad soldiers coming towards them.

Oh great, it’s the South, they think, relieved, until the dust of the desert road brushes off the soldiers’ coats to reveal them as the navy-blue-clad soldiers of the North. It’s a very funny scene, though, where Tuco is yelling yay, hurray for General Lee, etc., and then the soldiers turn out to be the enemy. Poor stupid Tuco…!

Angel Eyes is surprisingly a Union Sergeant in the regiment that captures Tuco and Blondie. His huge henchman Wallace (the magnificent Mario Brega in his third ‘DOLLARS’ outing) gives Tuco the most horrific-looking beating to get him to tell Angel Eyes where the loot is, quite literally, buried. Tuco gets his threatened revenge on Wallace later. ‘An bhfuil cead agam dul go dtì an leithreas, máis e do thoil e…?’

Blondie, Tuco and Angel Eyes have their inevitable three-way showdown in a wide-open space of suitably amphitheatrical proportions, to the accompaniment of Ennio Morricone’s marvellous music.

But not before Blondie and Tuco have done a big and much-appreciated favour for an exhausted and dispirited navy-blue-coated Captain (Clinton) of a regiment fighting the dreadful Civil War…

There’s a very touching scene where Blondie gives a dying young soldier a puff of his ever-present cigarette and wraps him in his good warm coat, taking only a poncho in return. Which suits both him and us perfectly, as we’re more used to seeing him so garbed.

So, who gets the precious moolah in the end? Blondie, Tuco or Angel Eyes? None of them? Or do they agree to a highly unlikely three-way split? Like I said, it’s highly unlikely. Lee Van Cleef is properly mean in this one too, unlike when he was Colonel Douglas Mortimer in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE.

Then, he was reduced to working as a bounty hunter by straitened circumstances and, of course, he had his own deeply personal reasons for wanting to kill the bandit El Indio, but here he’s motivated purely by greed. His moustache is slightly longer and darker too here, a sure sign of proper villainy, lol. Never trust a man whose moustache curls up slightly at the ends. You could live to regret it.

By the way, when I saw Ennio Morricone perform his greatest hits in Dublin’s 3Arena back in early 2015, I only went because I was absolutely convinced that it’d be his last hurrah. I’ll never get another chance to see such a living legend in person, I told myself.

He’s been back three or four times since then, lol, and he’s probably booked in for next year as well, making a total mockery out of my assumption that he was nearly ready to hang up his baton. I bet he’s doing it just to spite me…!

Anyway, when during this concert the orchestra struck up the opening bars to ‘THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY,’ a definite frisson of excitement rippled through the audience.

A thrilled culchie (a country person Up In Dublin For The Day, usually for some kind of All-Ireland sporting event) behind me was heard to remark to his companion: ‘Tish The Big One.’ You’re not wrong there, my country friend. You’re not wrong there.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. (1964) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

clint dollars

A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. (1964) DIRECTED BY SERGIO LEONE. STARRING CLINT EASTWOOD, MARIANNE KOCH, JOSEPH EGGER, JOSE CALVO, MARIO BREGA AND GIAN MARIA VOLONTE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This magnificent spaghetti Western is the film that launched the careers of both Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood into the cinematic stratosphere, and it can’t have hindered the upward trajectory of film music composer Ennio Morricone either.

It’s the first film in what is commonly referred to as the ‘Dollars’ trilogy. It’s followed by the sublime FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, my personal favourite of the trilogy, and the equally excellent THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.

Clint Eastwood introduced a new kind of hero to the cinema screen at this time. This was his ‘Man With No Name’ character, long, lean, laconic and stubbly, viewing the world through cigar-smoke-narrowed eyes, lightning-quick on the draw with moves to make even the slickest gunfighter in the Wild West pea-green with envy, and irresistibly attractive to women without even trying.

‘My, isn’t he tall…?’ This last is from the busty, toothsome landlady of the hotel in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. This Man With No Name- here he’s called Joe, ironically- makes their husbands and lovers look like sacks of crap by comparison. His sexual magnetism cannot be denied.

And neither can his ability to sharp-shoot his way out of every sticky situation imaginable. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! and it’s Goodnight Irene for an entire gang of cut-throats and murderers, with which the Wild West was of course rife, and all without breaking a sweat for The Man With No Name. But here his name is Joe, for some reason. Remember that, lol.

In A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, Clint Eastwood’s lone rider character, gun-belt carefully in place under his poncho (what I wouldn’t give for a root around under that poncho!) trots into a grim and dusty border town called San Miguel.

It’s a town where the Americans and the Mexicans are accustomed to knocking seven bells out of each other over gold, guns and liquor. Don’t anyone tell Donald Trump now, in case he gets the mad idea of separating the two nations with some kind of wall…

San Miguel, a one-horse town barely deserving of the name, is ruled by two gangs, the Baxters (the town Sheriff is a Baxter) and the Rojos. The Baxters aren’t up to much. It’s the Rojo Brothers who seem to be the more proactive of the two gangs and the gang that’ll probably give Clint the most trouble.

Clint signs on with the Rojo Brothers to supposedly earn a few quid for himself. The criminal siblings are Miguel, Esteban of the Alarmingly Gleaming Teeth and the handsome and charismatic Ramon. Ramon is played by Gian Maria Volonte, who brilliantly portrays the desperado bandit El Indio in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. Ramon is clearly the head brother here but he’s also a bit of a loose cannon too.

Ramon doesn’t trust Clint as far as he can throw him, but Clint isn’t exactly going to be giving Ramon his house keys and credit card numbers any time soon, either. In fact, he’s going to be a big fat thorn in Ramon’s side before very much longer.

Clint is fantastic as he plays the Baxters and the Rojos against each other, earning himself wads of cash (‘Look at my wad…!’ Remember Harry Enfield’s comic character Loadsamoney?) in the process.

He becomes Ramon’s mortal enemy for life when he releases Marisol, a beautiful local woman who’s been abducted by Ramon and forced to live in the Rojo compound as his concubine, and sets her free to escape with her delighted husband and small son.

Ramon doesn’t take this lying down. He’s been mortally insulted, after all. He sets Chico, his massive family bodyguard played by Mario Brega, on Clint and Clint gets a really terrible and realistic-looking roughing-up. Mario Brega plays Indio’s huge, muscular sidekick Nino in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and it must be said that he is really, really good at playing enormous thugs.

Clint just about survives the beating, fortunately, but for how long? Ramon is out for his blood and he won’t rest until he’s put this enigmatic Lone Gunfighter Six Feet Under where Ramon feels sure he belongs. Could there be a showdown on the cards?

Ah go on, you knew already that there was gonna be one, lol. These things always end with a cracking showdown, with all the Bang! Bang! Pew! Pew! and the bodies piling up on the Main Street of a town so dead that even the tumbleweed has gotten pissed off, packed up and gone for a burton.

One of my favourite things about this movie is the lovely relationship between Clint and the town’s two oldest male residents, Silvanito the Inn-keeper, who seems to feel paternally protective of our Clint, and Piri-Pero, the undertaker and therefore the town’s busiest man.

That’s on account of how everyone who comes to San Miguel gets killed sooner or later by one or other of the two gangs, and it’s usually sooner. They don’t much cotton to strangers in that part of the world. Therefore, the undertaking business is what you might call booming. It’s the only thing that is in the God-forsaken town of San Miguel.

The undertaker, on-screen for the last scene, busily measuring up corpses for a buryin’, is played by Joseph Egger. He’s the lovely beardy auld fella who cameos as the Prophet in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. This is the guy who hates the railroad, with its choo-choo and its filthy smoke and the screeching of the brakes and the rattling of every window in his poor little hut as the Iron Horse thunders by, insensible to the disruption it’s causing.

A lot of people disliked the railroad for the noise and smoke but progress can’t be halted, as we modern-era folks know all too well ourselves. There’s an office block going up across the street from me as I write this, and if it gets any higher it’s gonna block out the sun.

It’s already greatly impeding my view of the Dublin Mountains, grumble grumble grumble. God forbid we shouldn’t have yet another building in which to store our cellphone-gym-and-coffee junkies. Let’s not kid ourselves, that’s all we use ’em for.

Anyway, in the sequel to this, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, Gian Maria Volonte settles really well into his role of Mexican bandit as El Indio, who is a much more interesting and well-developed character than Ramon Rojo, in my humble opinion. That’s no slur on Ramon, but Indio is the better bandit for sure. It’s like Ramon was the prototype, but Indio is the finished product, if you get me. Indio is a terrific villain, one of the best in the Western genre.

Clint Eastwood’s character of the Lone Gunfighter, the Man With No Name- except here it’s Joe!- comes out fully formed in the very first film, however, with his horsey and his cigar and poncho and tanned leathery face and squinty eyes.

Even way back then, Clint Eastwood was a superlative actor. He is able to use his eyes to great comedic effect, as in here when he accidentally punches Marisol in the face, thinking she’s a man. He rolls his eyes as if to say ‘Ah Jaysis, look what I’ve done, I’m a total tit!’

It’s very funny, a bit like the way he squints wryly up into the night sky in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE when Colonel Douglas is just shooting the shit… out of poor Clint’s hat…! Clint’s actually something of a comic genius as well as an exceptionally handsome Action Man, and he always has been. Long may he continue.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. (1965) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

indio

FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. (1965) DIRECTED BY SERGIO LEONE. MUSIC BY ENNIO MORRICONE. STARRING CLINT EASTWOOD, LEE VAN CLEEF, GIAN MARIA VOLONTÉ AND KLAUS KINSKI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘This train’ll stop at Tucumcari.’

‘In ten minutes, you’ll be smokin’ in hell. Get up!’

‘When the chimes end, pick up your gun. Try and shoot me, Colonel.’

‘Where life was cheap, death sometimes had its price. That’s when the bounty killers appeared.’

‘Why’d’ya choose my bar to commit suicide in, Mister? I know that man. And if that man didn’t kill ya, then he musta had a very good reason.’

This won’t be a review so much as one great big love-in. I bloody ADORE this film. It’s a spaghetti western shot in Spain (with the interiors done in Rome) and the middle film in what is commonly referred to as the ‘Dollars’ trilogy, its predecessor being A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and its successor, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.

Sequels, as you know, can get something of a bad press but this film, in my opinion, is a classic example of the sequel far, far surpassing the original in just about every way you can think of.

Like the way the original FRANKENSTEIN, made in 1931 by James Whale, as brilliant as it is, is somewhat eclipsed by the 1935 sequel, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, also made by James Whale.

And the way that I prefer JAWS 2 to the original JAWS. although that’s not quite the same thing, that’s more a matter of personal taste. For which I’ve gotten a lot of abuse, I might add. (‘You think JAWS 2 is better than the original JAWS? What the fuck is the matter with ya, ya fuckin’ idiot? Ya must need your fuckin’ eyes tested!!!’)

The plot is simple enough, but it works so, so well. Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef, in roles that made them both into internationally recognised cinema stars, play Manco and Colonel Douglas Mortimer respectively, a pair of bounty killers from the bad old days of the Wild, Wild West who each share a common aim.

What aim is this, I hear you say? You might well ask. They both want to claim the massive bounty- ten thousand dollars to be precise- on the head of El Indio. Indio (Gian Maria Volonte) is a decidedly sociopathic bank robber-slash-murderer-slash-all-round bad guy, who is drugged up for a lot of the movie on some intoxicating addictive substance that he smokes nearly non-stop.

He commits mayhem with impunity all over the place with the help and backing of his notorious gang of unwashed cut-throats and thieves: Niňo, Slim, Paco, Chico, Hughie, Franco, Groggy, Wild and all the rest. Life is cheap in their world and they never shed a tear for any of the lives they snuff out so carelessly. Easy come, easy go, huh?

We first see Indio when he’s being broken out of prison by his gang. Then, in a super-cool scene in an abandoned church that’s breath-taking in its magnificence, he revenges himself against the man who got him sent to prison.

Taking out a musical pocket-watch that chimes a haunting little melody, Indio tells his betrayer to try and shoot him when the music stops. Watched by the members of Indio’s gang, the two men wait for the delicately tinkling chimes to end. And wait…

After initially locking horns over who has more right to go after El Indio and his gang and claim the whopping reward, Manco and Colonel Mortimer, after a very funny hat-shooting scene that breaks up the tension, decide that two heads might just be better than one when it comes to getting the better of the band of brigands.

They join forces and Manco is chosen- slightly to his alarm- to infiltrate Indio’s gang in order to bring down the enemy from the inside. This he does just in time for the gang’s next big job: robbing the bank at El Paso, legendary for its impenetrability.

The bank is successfully robbed, partly because Indio has some inside information as to the existence of a hard-to-open safe disguised as a drinks cabinet reserved for fancy guests who frequent the bank. The safe may contain as much as a million dollars in cash. It’s a very attractive proposition indeed for Indio and his gang. Irresistible, in fact.

They return to their hideout with the stolen safe, only to discover that they can’t risk opening it without damaging the money contained therein. What to do, what to do? Re-enter Colonel Douglas Mortimer with a handy solution and a proposition for El Indio…

There are just so many things to love about this film. It’s worth watching just for Ennio Morricone’s fabulous musical score alone. I promise you that you’ll be humming dum-dum-di-dum-dum-di-dum-dum-di-dum long after the credits have rolled. There’s some beautiful Spanish guitar in there too.

Blonde German actor Klaus Kinski (Werner Herzog’s haunting NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE, AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD, COBRA VERDE, FITZCARRALDO) in a supporting role is deliciously twisted- and gorgeous- as the hunchback who goes berserk when the cool-as-fuck Lee Van Cleef strikes a match off his hump. The two ‘smoker’ scenes are excellent and great fun. ‘Cucilio, count to three…’ What I want to know here is, can Cucilio count at all, never mind to three?

Clint Eastwood is gorgeous in this, full stop. Seeing him in his poncho, all stubbly and manly, chomping on a cigarette and shooting a villain stone-dead without even looking directly at him makes me seriously wish that I could live out my naughty sex-fantasy of living in Wild West times when men were men and women were glad of it… Ahem…! (Coughs and clears throat and goes bright red in the face…) What I wouldn’t give to be dragged into a barn by my hair and shown Manco’s secret weapon, and what it’s used for…

But for me, the highlight of an already bloody brilliant film has to be Gian Maria Volonté, who plays the part of the utterly psychopathic robber-baron to perfection. He has the most beautiful eyes too, have you noticed that?

He is moody, broody and just ever so slightly insane as he opens his little pocket watch containing the photograph of the woman he raped and lets the tinkling chimes play out before the shooting of his adversaries can commence.

What’s the secret of the little pocket-watch he carries that plays music when you open it? The story is told in two gripping flashbacks. Indio seems haunted by the memory of it and smokes drugs to blot it out. I hardly think he feels any remorse for what he’s done as he’s a total sociopath but maybe his ego was slightly dented by what happened.

Think of what Lisa Simpson says sadly in the TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episode entitled BAD DREAM HOUSE. ‘It chose to destroy itself rather than live with us.’ You can see why Indio might have been a wee bit miffed all right.

He’s so good at being bad that I must admit I always shed a few sly tears every time I watch the showdown between him and the two bounty killers (they’re not called bounty hunters here but bounty killers) in the sweltering heat of the Agua Caliente sun.

So, do Manco and Colonel Mortimer ride off into the sunset together having each achieved what they set out to do at the start of the movie? Does Manco bag himself a cartload of dead villains for which he will receive a huge bounty and will Colonel Mortimer’s attempt to avenge the beautiful doe-eyed woman in the picture be a success? It’s all to play for, folks.

If you like spaghetti Westerns, then you need to watch this film. Then watch it again. Watch it even if you don’t normally like spaghetti Westerns. I promise you that you won’t be disappointed. This film is a real little exploding cracker of a movie. Bang bang, you’re dead…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

SERGIO LEONE’S ‘ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.’ (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

west jill face

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. (1968) DIRECTED BY SERGIO LEONE.

STORY BY DARIO ARGENTO, BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI AND SERGIO LEONE. STARRING CLAUDIA CARDINALE, HENRY FONDA, JASON ROBARDS, CHARLES BRONSON AND GABRIELE FORZETTI.

MUSIC BY ENNIO MORRICONE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘He not only plays. He can shoot too.’

‘Gonna be a beautiful town, Sweetwater.’

‘People like that have something inside. Something to do with death.’

‘Nothing matters now. Not the land, not the money, not the woman.’

‘How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? Guy doesn’t even trust his own pants.’

‘He’s whittling on a piece of wood. I gotta feeling when he stops whittling, something’s gonna happen.’

Christ Almighty, I love cowboys. Hot sweaty cowboys in films like this one really do it for me. With their week’s growth of beard, tousled hair, cigarette-smoke-narrowed eyes and big fat holsters, they push all my buttons big-time.

I would not say no to being dragged by the hair into the nearest stable by a seasoned cowboy and shown the stuff that a real man is made of. Of course, they have a name for that type of thing nowadays (I believe it’s called being dragged by the hair into the nearest stable by a seasoned cowboy and shown the stuff that a real man is made of) but, oh wow, how glorious the Wild West must have been in some ways. You saw what you wanted and you just took it.

A woman, a homestead, a decent piece of horseflesh or a plate of beans. It was all the one to those dusty drifters, half-crazed with lust after many lonely nights on the trail of the lonesome pine, beating their meat in solitude to the music of the crickets.

Can this be the most magnificent Western, spaghetti or otherwise, ever made? God, yes. Set in the dying days of the old Wild West as we know it, it’s an epic battle between, not good and evil exactly but, shall we say, more a battle between bad-with-more-than-a-hint-of-good-thrown-in and evil, if you get me. Although of course everything seemed so black or white in the old days with not much in-between. No room for half-measures.

Claudia Cardinale, an absolute bombshell of a woman cast in the mould of Sophia Loren, Raquel Welch and Brigitte Bardot, plays Jill, a young woman who travels alone to the railroad town of Flagstone. Jill has hope in her heart. Jill is going to be looked after by a man from now on. No more nasty fending for herself in the cold cruel world. Nice work if you can get it, huh?

She’s expecting to be met off the train by Brett McBain, an older man with property whom she’s married the month before. After a lifetime of whoring in New Orleans, Jill is finally ready to settle down and embrace respectability.

But the entire McBain family, the father and his three children Maureen, Patrick and Timmy have been brutally slaughtered by the hired killer known locally as Frank. Frank works for crippled railroad mogul Mr. Morton.

Mr. Morton wants Brett McBain’s land, which is rich in water, a valuable commodity in such a dry, dusty desert town, but not only that. The railroad is expanding at a rate of knots and the McBain land is the ideal situation for a new station.

Mr. Morton wants Frank to scare the McBains’ away, but Frank is something of a hothead. No half-measures with Frank, see? A few well-placed gunshots and Jill’s lovely dream of married bliss goes up in smoke. Aw well, maybe respectability ain’t all it’s cracked up to be anyway, lol. Maybe Jill’s better off without it.

Henry Fonda is superb as the baddie Frank. Dressed in black, chewing tobacco constantly- a disgusting habit!- and always looking to increase his own cut of every pie, he’s probably the most evil character Mister Goody Two-Shoes Nice Guy Henry Fonda (TWELVE ANGRY MEN, THE WRONG MAN) has ever played.

Frank’s cold, calculating and cruel. He talks about killing Jill, the rightful heir now to the entire McBain fortune and therefore an obstacle to Mr. Morton’s acquisition of the precious land, even while he’s making love to her in a scene that always makes me hold my breath.

Such is his personal magnetism that Jill doesn’t even care about what he’s threatening her with. All the women love a bad boy, and hired gun Frank is as bad as they come.

Jill’s so weak at the knees she can’t even stand up straight and take umbrage when he says, while expertly caressing her naked body: ‘You like to feel a man’s hands all over you. Even if they’re the hands of the man who killed your husband.’ Swoon, Jill, swoon, what else is there to do?

Jason Robards plays Cheyenne, a local bandit whom Frank attempts to frame for the wholesale slaughter of the McBain family. Cheyenne fancies Jill too and she likes him but I think that this is more of a friendship thing in that he never tries to force himself on her. When he barges in on her at the McBain homestead, however, she naturally assumes that that’s just what he’ll do. Check out what she says to him:

‘You can throw me across the table and amuse yourself with me, and you can even bring in your men. No woman ever died from that.’ (I don’t think that’s strictly true, is it?) ‘And afterwards all it’ll take is a jug of boiling water and I’ll be exactly the same as I was before. Just with another filthy memory.’ Feisty little thing, ain’t she?

I love it when Cheyenne tells Jill as he’s leaving her kitchen, having partaken of her hot, strong coffee: ‘You know, Jill, you remind me of my mother. She was the biggest whore in Alameda and the finest woman who ever lived. Whoever my father was, for an hour or for a month, he must have been a happy man.’

In his own way there, he considers that he’s paying her a compliment. However, the #me too and #time’s up people would have a fit at some of Cheyenne’s later words to the buxom Jill. Referring to the railway workers and station builders working away right outside her door:

‘You don’t know how good it makes a man feel to see a woman like you. Just to look at her. And if one of them should pat your behind, just make believe it’s nothing. They earned it…!’ You know what, for once, I ain’t sayin’ nuthin’…

I’ve left Charles Bronson till last because he’s the coolest character in the film by miles. He plays a Mysterious Stranger who comes into town on the train with a view to finding Frank and wreaking revenge on him for unknown crimes Frank has committed in the past.

The Man says very little, but what he says counts. ‘Inside the coats were three men. Inside the men were three bullets.’ He’s the f**king coolest cowboy to ever wear shoe leather and have a leathery complexion to match. (Although in that red undershirt, I thought he bore an uncanny resemblance to Ralph Waite who played Pa Walton in THE WALTONS…!)

The Man plays his silver harmonica with an eerie expertise and before long, without his lifting a finger really because that’s how freakin’ cool he is, Jill is head-over-heels in love with him, Cheyenne the bandit is his friend for life and the normally confident Frank is running scared. He doesn’t know who the Mysterious Stranger is but he knows that he’s frightened of him.

The showdown between Frank and The Man is one of the greatest in cinema. They just don’t make ’em like that no more. The first ten minutes of the film too, by the way, is fantastic beyond words.

It’s like a complete short film in itself, the three dirty sweaty cowboys in the long coats known as ‘dusters’ waiting for the train and the one person they’re waiting for is revealed to be suddenly on the other side of the tracks, eerily playing his harmonica…

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is a fabulous film. With a knockout score by Ennio Morricone (I saw him perform live here in Dublin in 2015, by the way!) and the constant close-ups of craggy, unsmiling unshaven faces, it’s something that leaves a powerful impression behind it, unlike some other films which you may well forget the minute they’re over. This is one film you won’t forget in a hurry. This one, you’ll remember. It’s a killer of a film.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor